If there were questions about whether or not Sarah Fakler could emerge out of Jessica Tonn’s shadow, they didn’t linger long.
The Xavier Prep sophomore opened up her season with a 41-second victory over a quality field at the Sole Sports Running Zone XC Festival and didn’t stop winning, beating every Arizona runner she went up against all season.
Fakler’s dominance in Arizona culminated in a 37- second victory in the Divison I state championships, earning Fakler the Tribune’s Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award.
“I put pressure on myself to live up to the expectations going into this year,” Fakler said. “I’m really proud of how my season went and really proud of my team.”
As a freshman, Fakler played second-fiddle to Tonn, Xavier’s three-time Tribune runner of the year, who recently placed 96th in the NCAA Championships as a freshman at Stanford. Fakler was second at state behind Tonn in 2009 and was the odds-on favorite to move into the top spot this year. It didn’t take long to see that Fakler wasn’t going to take a step back with Tonn gone.
“I didn’t really change anything about my preparations this year,” Fakler said. “The changes were an outside thing and how people thought I would do without Jessica.”
After the opening meet victory, Fakler posted a one-minute win at the George Young Invite. She took sixth in the prestigious Mt. Sac Invitational in Walnut, Calif., and third in the Nike Cross Nationals Southwest Regional race.
If Fakler continues to improve, winning two more state championships should be expected. But it is at those national-caliber events that Fakler wants to improve on the most.
So far, she’s fared well, but wants to put herself in the mix to win events like the Nike Cross Nationals or the Foot Locker National Championships.
“We’re going to be focusing more on those national meets and do more to get ready for those,” Fakler said. “I just have to get used to not being up front and being without my team.”
It’s the team atmosphere at Xavier that Fakler credits with a lot of her success. The Gators have such a strong team that Fakler had to work to move into the top spot.
“The Xavier team is so great,” Fakler said. “The girls are so nice and really good training partners.”
All-Tribune first team
Name School Yr. Comment
Sarah Fakler Xavier Soph. No one in state put up much of a challenge for super Soph.
Kylee Keiser Marcos de Niza Sr. Transfer from Casa Grande closed solid prep career with Division II title.
Brittany Tretbar Desert Vista Soph. Ran 3rd at Division I meet; has bright future ahead
Brianna Decker Mountain View Jr. Was a consistent performer all season, placed 4th in Div. I
Tory Haberman Highland Jr. Emerged as a strong contender. Was sectional champ, 7th in Div. I
Breanna Perrone Xavier Jr. Always near the front of the pack, was 6th in Div. I
Marissa Opatz Desert Mountain Sr. Scottsdale District champ finished 5th in Div. I
Girls runner of the year: Sarah Fakler, Xavier
Coach of the year: Anna Rodriguez, Marcos de Niza: It does help when the best runner in your division transfers in, and Rodriguez made sure that Kylee Keiser had plenty of support. The Padres finished second in Division II, thanks to Keiser’s individual win and the efforts of runners like Paige Libsack, Jessey Tenioro, Jamie Chan and Jasmine Trigueros, who all finished in the top 40.
All-Tribune second team
Name School Yr. Comment
Katie Penney Xavier Sr. 8th in Div. I meet, second straight top-10 finish in state
Billie Dytrt Mountain View Soph. Came on strong late, was 9th in Division I
Daylee Burr Xavier Sr. Part of strong pack of Gators, was 10th in Div. I
Taylor DeLaVega Perry Jr. Another consistent year; finished 9th in Div. II
Kristina Vanderhout Notre Dame Sr. Team moved up a division, but she still fared well, placing 10th.
Lorn’e Snyder Scottsdale Christian Sr. Sectional champ; was 8th in Div. IV meet.
Megan Kupres Desert Vista Sr. Wrapped up career with 11th place finish in Div. I
Arcadia: Tess Berghoff, Sr.; Cactus Shadows: Dani Zalewski, Soph.; Corona del Sol: Dani Lemieux, Jr.; Desert Vista: Yasmine Yacut, Sr.; Gilbert Classical: Haley Vanallen, Fr.; Highland: Kristy Rush, Soph.; Horizon: Nicole Antol, Sr.; Horizon Honors: Monika Kawski, Sr.; Mikaela Martin, Fr.; Marcos de Niza: Paige Libsack, Jr.; Jessey Tenioro, Soph.; Mesquite: Nicole Reveles, Sr.; Mountain View: Jessika Bodrero, Sr.; Scottsdale Christian: Anna Long, Soph.; Tempe: Leticia Shaban, Jr.; Tempe Prep: Emily Hedberg, Jr.; Williams Field: Catie Davies, Sr.; Xavier: Christian Andreen, Sr.; McKenna Gaffney, Soph.; Julianne Vice, Fr.